Dubai: When Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s India walloped Australia by an innings and 135 runs in Hyderabad last week, he surpassed Sourav Ganguly as India’s most successful captain. Dhoni has now enjoyed 22 Test victories as captain, one more than Ganguly, sparking a debate about which of them is the best skipper.
For eight years, Ganguly had proudly held this record, while following a series of defeats Dhoni’s captaincy had recently come under severe threat.
Just when it looked as if Ganguly’s unofficial status as India’s best ever captain would remain intact, though, Dhoni staged a spectacular comeback through some match-winning performances.
There are many who believe that Dhoni emerged as a successful captain largely due to Ganguly having established a winning team, which the former reaped the benefits of.
Ganguly took over India’s captaincy when the likes of Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan were just appearing on the scene, whereas Dhoni became skipper of a team full of established superstars.
Dhoni’s supporters have a point when they say that he also inspired an inexperienced side to Twenty20 World Cup victory and followed it up with the 2011 World Cup triumph, in addition to helping them reach the number one world ranking.
Even now, during India’s transitional period following Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman’s retirements, he is guiding India to victories.
Ganguly and Dhoni were captains with contrasting styles. Dhoni is known for his cool and calm approach, and hence is known as ‘Captain Cool’, whereas Ganguly was an aggressive leader, who lived up to his nickname “Dada” (“the boss”).
Ganguly: The Dada
Sourav Ganguly presented himself as a stubborn captain. He was a tough taskmaster and came across as a no-nonsense man. Ganguly took over the captaincy following the match fixing scandals by many players in the team in 2000 and when Sachin Tendulkar relinquished the post.
It was Ganguly who instilled in his players the confidence that the best of teams can be beaten. His biggest achievement was infusing a killer instinct in his players. He taught all his players to walk with their head held high and played a pivotal role in building a strong Team India.
Though Ganguly steered India to the World Cup final in 2003, he could not win it. However to his credit are victories over the then formidable Australians and England. He also proved that India can win away from home and has 11 victories to his credit.
Ganguly displayed his emotions on and off the field. He was also blessed with the support of the then kingmaker of Indian cricket, Jagmohan Dalmiya, who held the top post in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), which helped his arrogant approach produce the right results.
He got so carried away by his captaincy that he forgot his contribution as a batsman. Since India kept winning, he could comfortably hide his lack of form until Coach Greg Chappell brought it to light, leading to him costing his the job.
Dhoni: Captain Cool
Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s biggest quality is his cool approach. His ability to conceal his emotions and fight is remarkable. This has helped India win some of the toughest of matches. He utilises every member of the team and has the ability to bring out the best in his players, especially the juniors.
One of the reasons he has won big tournaments such as the World Cup is his ability to lift the team spirit when the chips are down. He refuses to crack under pressure and has often made brave moves at crucial stages of the match.
Dhoni’s hard work also inspires every player. Despite handling the toughest job on the field as a wicketkeeper, he performs the role of captaincy with shrewdness and has wielded the bat to telling effect.
Dhoni climbed up the ranks fighting against the toughest of odds. He’s brought this mentality to the field of play, too. Though Dhoni has captained India to victories in prestigious tournaments, his record as skipper abroad is not particularly impressive, with only five victories to his name.
However, although he has not proved to be a successful captain in Australia and England, he has won in South Africa and New Zealand.
Dhoni’s biggest test now is how to deal with the fact that two star players, Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag, are nearing the end of their careers. But with his ability to maintain his stamina and form, Dhoni may further swell his victory tally as captain.